Cases currently heard in Bentonville
On Tuesday, March 28, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law Act 723 — a bill authorizing Bella Vista to create its own department of the Benton County District Court.
Currently, and since the city’s 2007 incorporation, misdemeanor offenses, traffic offenses and city code violations are heard in the Bentonville department of the Benton County District Court. The City of Bella Vista contracts with the City of Bentonville for these services, for a monthly fee. All Bella Vista cases are schedule on the designated single court day each month. Consequently, the staff attorney and any police officers involved in the cases must attend court outside of the city.
An increasing number of docket cases and the increasing cost-share expenses — anticipated this year to be more than $15,000 per month — prompted the city to seek other options.
With Act 723 in place, city officials may now proceed to find space, equip and staff its own court in Bella Vista. The new law allows the current judge to conduct hearings in Bella Vista, and permits court records to be housed in the city. A court clerk is also permitted under the law.
The change will also allow for streamlined ticket payments through the Bella Vista Police Department, and will give greater convenience to citizens and law enforcement in terms of court access, Staff Attorney Jason Kelley said.
“A long-term savings cost is anticipated from the operation of the city’s own court, versus the current cost-sharing arrangement with the City of Bentonville,” he said.
In addition, revenue from fines and court costs that are currently going to the City of Bentonville will now benefit the City of Bella Vista.
The city is currently exploring options for locations for the court, Mayor Peter Christie said. The changeover is hoped to be complete toward the end of 2017.